Universities Are Now Building Shopping Malls on Campus Because Students Weren't Broke Enough

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With American students graduating around $30k in debt and the average adjunct instructor earning less than $3k per class, colleges around the country are focusing on a problem that has long-plagued the university system: there simply aren’t enough places to spend money on campus.

The solution, obviously, is to provide discount retail space to stores like Target and Urban Outfitters. According to a recent Buzzfeed piece, shopping malls, those dying staples of suburban American life, are seeing a resurgence on college campuses, with mini-Targets popping up on or near 26 college or university campuses across the country:

“At 12,000 to 40,000 square feet, the stores are smaller than the company’s usual ones, but their sales productivity is higher — customers are shopping more frequently with smaller basket sizes than at Target’s regular stores. In part because of that metric, the company told BuzzFeed News it plans to open about 30 small-format stores each year over the next few years.”

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One pioneer of the campus mall is the University of Pennsylvania, which built a shopping center boasting an Urban Outfitters and Lululemon, among other stores and restaurants, in an unused parking lot. But having malls in parking lots or Targets nearby isn’t the same as living and studying inside a capitalist wonderland. The University of Southern California has remedied this problem with its mall/dorm combo, guaranteed to maximize profitability, the cornerstone of any healthy educational community:

“‘You’ve got tremendous market power,’” Laurie Stone, USC’s associate senior vice president of real estate and asset management, told BuzzFeed News. “‘We’re in Los Angeles, in an urban setting. You’ve got a campus population of 45,000, plus faculty staff, and a neighboring community. You have a built-in consumer market here.’”

Ah yes, when I was a TA responsible for 80 students a semester making just $12,000 a year, I always used to tell myself that it wasn’t about the money. It was about learning and educating in a rigorous academic setting, surrounded by a robust built-in consumer market always ready to explore new ideas while pawing through racks of distressed Levi’s at the campus intellectual hub, Urban Outfitters.

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